With market challenges growing across industries, companies must utilise all of the tools in their arsenal to remain both competitive and profitable. A comprehensive marketing plan is among the most powerful of these tools, available to entrepreneurs to facilitate their business development and success.
A well-constructed marketing plan will lay out the tactics, strategies, channels, timelines and funding needed to help you meet your sales goals and objectives through marketing efforts and activities.
So, how do you go about devising one?
Creating a Marketing Plan
In order to implement a marketing plan that will effectively promote your business, win over target consumers and, ultimately, give you a competitive edge, you should follow these ten crucial steps:
1. Evaluate Your Business' Needs
To begin creating your marketing plan, you must first examine your company's overall objectives and needs. By defining these areas, you can then decide which can be supported by your marketing approach and resulting activities.
During this process, you can also execute a SWOT analysis, to determine your business' immediate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Obtaining such an accurate portrayal of your current position will support you in aligning your marketing efforts with your fortes, maximising current opportunities and circumventing any identified threats.
2. Define Your Marketing Objectives
Next, translate these business needs into defined marketing objectives. These could include:
- Promoting new products
- Expanding brand awareness
- Entering new markets
- Developing customer breadth
- Increasing sales
These objectives will form the basis of your marketing plan, allowing you to more effectively work towards goals that will also fulfil your business' short-term and long-term needs.
3. Identify Your Target Consumers
Who are your current customers? Which consumer categories do they belong to? Are there more buyer groups that your products and services could appeal to? These are precisely the kinds of questions that you should be asking yourself at this stage, with a view to tailoring your marketing to reach these individuals effectively.
Once you have identified these groups, you should create a profile of your typical consumer, listing their likes, dislikes, motivations, purchasing power, buying preferences, media consumed, and more. This will determine the marketing tactics and delivery you decide on, as well as the language and imagery you select for your marketing messaging.
4. Conduct Competitor Research
Completing competitive analysis is another critical step required during the curation of your marketing plan. This research allows you to evaluate the competition's marketing efforts, and better understand the messaging and promotions your consumers are exposed to from other brands, as well as take inspiration from the practices that garner success.
To do this, you must first identify your top competitors. Review your similarities and differences, to identify any key differentiators which you could leverage to your advantage. Next, begin to examine their outgoing above-the-line and below-the-line marketing. Review their digital presence, register for their newsletters and company updates, and monitor consumer feedback via blogs and forums.
This research can give you a great perspective on how to improve on your competition's strategies, and take advantage of any gaps they leave in the market, as well as learn from any mistakes they are making.
5. Decide on Your Marketing Techniques
A successful marketing plan must include a variety of complementary marketing techniques. These strategy elements include digital marketing awareness, promoted media advertising, brand endorsements, customer events, sales promotions, and more.
Business objectives, target consumers and competitive analysis learnings are essential to consider during the selection of these techniques. If, for instance, your consumers broadly belong to Generation Z and you are seeking to recruit new customers, your methods will likely centre on utilising social media promotion, both organic and promoted, to fulfil these requirements.
Choose your techniques carefully to complement your initial objectives and further facilitate your marketing plan.
6. Select Marketing Communication Channels
There are many online and offline channels that you can incorporate into your marketing plan in order to circulate your marketing communications and effectively reach your identified target consumers. Select a variety of these media delivery vehicles to ensure that your marketing material will adequately drive awareness and enable demand generation among your relevant audience.
Leverage online channels to target consumers using both organic and promoted content, too. These may include company websites, email communications, social media profiles, promoted web banners, blogs, and videos.
Offline channels, meanwhile, allow you to reach a wider audience, supporting you in building and maintaining your company's reputation. Offline channel options could include billboard ads, television, radio, traditional mail and print media.
Evaluate these channels and decide which align best with your marketing communication requirements.
7. Define Timelines
Setting timelines and deadlines for each activity within your marketing plan will guide you in managing their execution, completion, and result tracking. Events, sponsorships, product sales and promotions particularly require defined timelines, to both help organise these marketing actions, as well as inform consumers of any applicable terms and conditions.
During this step, be sure to also divide your marketing efforts across each quarter of the full fiscal year, to guarantee that you will benefit from continuous and consistent promotion coverage.
Indeed, consistency is vital for the success of any marketing plan, to effectively capture prospective buyers' attention and encourage them along a full customer journey, via a purchasing funnel.
8. Allocate Your Budget
Along with your plan's timelines, your marketing budget allocation is another crucial element to consider.
First, identify how much funding you are willing to invest in your marketing; you can calculate this as between 1% to 5% of your proven gross annual sales. If, however, you are running a startup which has yet to begin full operations, consider a yearly conservative revenue estimation, and work with a percentage of that figure.
Next, decide how you will divide this money per activity. You can contact suppliers and agencies to obtain quotes on various elements of your expected execution to make your estimations more accurate.
Finally, note that you can adjust your budget each quarter or annum, according to the ROI you observe on completed marketing activities, and other fulfilled KPIs.
9. Set KPIs
Deciding which key performance indicators (KPIs) to use to track your marketing plan's success is essential to its completion. You should identify these indicators before the execution of any activities or strategies in order to accurately measure your plan's ability to meet your original objectives or sales targets.
Critical KPIs that you should focus on include incremental revenue, customer breadth, new customers, lifetime customer value, leads generated, website or social media traffic, digital conversion rates and advertising ROI.
Remember to set KPIs for each activity – as well as to your wider plan – to ensure that you maximise the impact of your overall marketing efforts.
10. Delegate to Your Team
You can't complete the creation of your marketing plan without deciding who will actively execute these activities, and be responsible for monitoring their progress.
Delegate each area of your plan to your existing team, or identify any new recruits that may be needed. Here, you can also explore the possibility of hiring a marketing agency to support you, should you not have the internal bandwidth or ability to hire new colleagues to manage your marketing.
Now, your marketing plan should be complete, and you should be well equipped to go ahead and begin reaping the benefits of your marketing efforts!
Creating an effective, comprehensive marketing plan can make all the difference to your business' development and success. Take the time to review your company's needs, expectations, consumers and available budget during the process of building your plan. Entrepreneurs should also define the promotional strategies and channels to be adopted within their marketing, and set their expectations of the return on their investment. Business owners can also conduct competitive analysis here, to stay ahead of the game and differentiate their marketing from key competitors.
What other tips would you give creating a marketing plan? Let us know your thoughts and views in the comment section below!